Tag Archives: Camino Frances

Camino Day 37 – Lestedo to Melide: Just This Day, You Know? (But Nice)

Monday 25 September 2023 – Not a huge amount to report today that’s anything out of the ordinary, to be honest: got up; had breakfast; went for a walk in nice weather; had a late lunch. You can see a Relive video of the day here.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves, because we did. The weather was lovely, with some mist contributing to nice morning views

and the outlook was for sunshine and temperatures in the low 20s. What was really nice, though, was the almost total lack of pilgrims around us when we started out.

There was a group of four as we turned our first corner, but we overhauled them immediately; and there was a couple resting by the side of the track. Apart from that, we had the trail to ourselves, and it was lovely. We think that the reason for this is that the standard destination after Portomarin is Palas de Rei, some 4km further long the Camino than our accommodation.  This seems to have put us between the waves of pilgrims setting out from Portomarin and those setting out from Palas de Rei. If this was the intention of the good folks at WalkTheCamino.com, then they are to be applauded for a very thoughtful piece of planning. Whatever, it meant that the first hour and a half of walking was in the sort of solitude that we’d been used to before reaching Sarria. Wonderful!

We passed another example of yesterday’s Mystery Object.

We were able to get close enough to verify the information provided by a friend that it was, indeed, a water tower; this one appeared to be there to drive an irrigation system.

Palas de Rei

was very quiet when we got there (presumably because the major waves of pilgrims had already buggered off). As we passed the church of San Tirso

we wondered whether it was open, and then heard music from within.

The church was indeed open, and this enabled us to get our first of the two Credencial stamps we need every day between here and Santiago.

Palas de Rei is also known for its statue of Dancing Pilgrims

and we joined in the spirit of joy as we danced along the trail until we caught up with the wave of pilgrims in front of us.

Ah, well…

This section of the Camino is well-served by coffee stops, and we passed a couple by without pausing because we hadn’t walked far enough to feel we qualified for refreshment. But we eventually passed one after about 8km, in a village called O Cotón.

We enjoyed a coffee and shared a Santiago cake whilst watching the queue of pilgrims getting their Credencial stamps from the local church of San Xulián.

The onward track was very pleasant, but quite unremarkable, passing through what is now familiar Galician farmland.  One place we passed

had a very impressive shell decoration on display;

and another village’s name had a familiar ring to it.

“Casanova” is another of those words which sounds much more exotic in Foreign, like Quattroporte or Ferrari. The name of the famous adventurer Giacomo Casanova translates simply to “James Newhouse”.

A noticeboard in the village there showed us that what we had originally thought was a kind of childish mural attempt to represent a pilgrim actually had some official weight.

We once again found that we were almost alone on the trail, which was, again, very pleasant

and the scenery continued to be agreeable.

As we approached a village called O Coto (I wonder if they get many letters addressed to O Cotón and vice versa) we passed a sign publicising a possible coffee stop

which puzzled us for a while. “Café-Bar” is clear enough; but did “ultramarinos” imply that it was a Blues Bar*?  We didn’t stop there, because we were seduced by a prior refreshment stop, where we partook of beer and crisps.

The quiet contentment of relaxing with a beverage in pleasant surroundings was rudely, and I mean rudely, shattered by an Italian woman of a certain age, part of a group of three and owner of a praeternaturally loud voice, who decided to do a video call on her phone. I think this is shockingly bad manners, particularly when conducted at a few decibels above the pain threshold. I was very tempted to stand in her line of vision and video this woman while she was shouting at her phone to demonstrate my anger at her lack of consideration for others by underlining the very public setting for her boorishness. But Jane robbed me of that pleasure by giving me One Of Her Looks.

As we moved on, we passed an interesting vignette

of an elderly lady pushing her own wheelchair, presumably so she could easily take a rest of needed; she offered Jane a lift, which amused both of them. We also passed today’s Mystery Object:

any ideas about why the basket’s wearing a bad wig, anyone? – and our third Matched Pair of Pilgrims

as they crossed the Puente de Magdalena, Spain’s answer to Oxford’s Magdalene Bridge.

We approached the outskirts of Melide, passing a scene which was not particularly rural Spanish

and went through a village called Furelos

before arriving in Melide proper. We had a bit of a drag through the town’s streets, past another Estrella (beer) advertising mural from the last Holy Year,

but eventually arrived at our hotel, the Lux Melide, which is posh enough to have a lift to help us take our bags up to the third floor and sympathetic enough to the needs of pilgrims to have a self-service laundry, so we now have enough clean socks and knickers to last us the rest of our holiday travels. Only three more walks to Santiago, and nine days until we get home, my goodness!

Today’s stats:  we covered exactly 19km today, according to Relive, and so our total has reached 754.7km – 469 miles. The information we have to hand about our remaining walks is that they cover 53km; and the official direction posts back this figure up; so it looks like our total distance will be over 800km. Imagine that!

All in all, we probably spent two-thirds of today’s walk in our own company, which was a delight. Given that the weather prospects for tomorrow are as nice as today’s, the plan is to conduct an experiment. If we start late, the reasoning goes, the bulk of the pilgrims will have left before us and so we might have a chance at more time by ourselves as we walk. The destination is Arzúa, which is only about 14km away, so there’s no time pressure on us. Check back in and find out whether our Cunning Plan actually worked, won’t you?


* Disappointingly, “ultramarinos” means “groceries”.  “Ultramarino” in Spanish means “imported”, “foreign” or “from overseas”. Nope. Still don’t get it.

Camino Day 36 – Portomarin to Lestedo: Up and down

Sunday 24 September 2023 – Even if I was going to feel outraged at the crowds on the piste, at least the weather outlook was OK for today’s walk. We shared a breakfast table and pleasant conversation with two American ladies, sisters from Washington State, before girding our loins and heading out into the throng at a few minutes past eight. You can see the Relive summary of the day here.

The weather gods did their best to protect us from the mob by shrouding everything in fog. We also discovered that the bit of the church that loomed over our hotel’s courtyard had its very own stork’s nest.

Our route took us out of Portomarin via The Other Bridge

(the upper one in the photo, as the lower one appears not to be in use any more, but serves very nicely as a creator of abstract lines for photography purposes) and headed steeply uphill

to get out of town and on the way to today’s destination, which was not actually Lestedo itself, but a tiny hamlet just past it called Os Valos. This appears, from Google Maps, to feature just one establishment capable of providing food, Hosteria Calixtino; our profound hope was that there was a bed for us, too.

The mist was slow to thin, and gradually revealed the expected throngs of peregrinos

including some on bicycles

whom we’ve occasionally seen referred to, rather charmingly, as “bicigrinos”.

Our hearts leapt at one stage when our Google Maps Black Line led us straight on when the hordes swung left; were we to have some quality time in a degree of solitude? Alas, the answer

was “no”, as the stream just debouched ahead of us, having simply been diverted for a short while.

Happily, I felt a great deal less outraged at the presence of the assembled masses than I had yesterday – not difficult, this. I suppose it must simply be that my expectations were more in line with reality. Anyway, the weather was perfect for walking and as we climbed up, the view back into the mist was great.

We noted a lot more British accents among the pilgrims at this stage of the Camino; before Sarria we had hardly heard an English accent, but now there were several Brits taking part. One wonders what to take away from this: are the British too hard-working to be able to take the time off to do the whole thing; are they too poorly-paid to be able to afford it; or are they just lazy buggers?

The scenery was enjoyable to walk through, particularly in the perfect weather we had today. The scenery was in most cases unremarkable, being a continuation of the sights and smells of Galician farmland – careful footwork still occasionally neeeded as we picked our way along the paths.

We did pass a few notable scenes, though: some charming statuary outside a house here;

a traditionally built, slate-roofed building there;

and, as we hit the heights, some nice landscapes.

In the final picture above, we saw a fresh plantation of eucalyptus trees; we saw plenty on the day’s walk, and wondered what purpose these fulfilled. Apparently, the tree was introduced privately in the mid 1900s and subsequently supported by the government as a fast-growing source of timber (e.g. fpr pulp) that deals well with fires; there are worries now that it is spreading and displacing native trees.

The landscape photos above were captured from atop one of the principal Interesting Sights, or even Sites, of the day; an Iron-Age fort called Castro de Castromaior. This was inhabited between the 4th century BC and 1st century AD, and parts have been excavated to show where the buildings originally stood.

Surrounding it is a very obvious ditch and wall

and in the centre is something that might once have been the basis of a tower.  The site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the north west of the Iberian peninsula. The recent excavations have discovered up to three different occupations, the last one being the fortified site, around the beginning of the Roman conquest.

The site is well-signposted, with the distinctive pink signs used in Spain to indicate a site of special interest. However, the hordes of pilgrims just walked past, paying it no attention at all.

Immediately after moving on from the site, we came across a scene that at first looked sinister or worrying – a Guardia Civil van, patrol car and several uniformed officers, surrounded by a crowd of pilgrims.  However, the truth was much less alarming and much more charming – they were stamping pilgrim Credenciales – including ours!

We passed through Ligonde

where there is a building that was once a pilgrim hospital and, a bit further on, a field which was once a pilgrim cemetery

for the times the hospital care wasn’t sufficient, I suppose. And the final village was Portos with a beer stop

named “A Paso de Formiga” – the path of the ants.

A beer was necessary whilst we pondered a significant decision: should we take a diversion off the path to see the church at Vilar de Donas, particularly to look at the 15th-century Gothic frescoes inside it? We’d already covered 21km by this time; did we want to do an extra five – 2.5km to the church and back? The available information about its opening times was conflicting, but we passed a sign to it on the road

with a notice next to it telling us that from Wednesdays to Sundays it was open from midday to 6pm.  So off we went.

The journey to the church was not without interest.  We saw today’s Mystery Object

and would be grateful for any kind of steer as to what the actual heck this is; and an intermediate village even had its own (small) horse racing track!

We got to the church

and inspected its admittedly impressive and artistically significant door

but the fucker was locked. Thrashing seven bells out of its centuries-old, original Romanesque door knocker produced no action, and neither did phoning the number on the adjoining noticeboard (which also contained a duplicate of the note advising us that the church bloody well ought to be open) although Jane did leave a message expressing our annoyance and disappointment.


We wended our way back to the Camino route and completed our journey to our hosteria just in time to miss the lunch service, as we’d been set back over an hour by our abortive diversion. So there was nothing for it but to rest up until we could take an early dinner.

It was a nice dinner, rather than a Nice Dinner, and the service was dispensed with considerable style and élan by a Spanish lad called, of all things, Nelson. After that, all we had to do was to plan for the morrow.

Before that, though, today’s stats.  because of our diversion, today’s walk was, I’m pretty sure, the longest so far;  Relive tells us that we covered 27.3km today, of which around 5 were the fruitless diversion to Vilar de Donas. We therefore have now walked 735.7km on the Camino – 457 miles. We also climbed 603m in total, so got a decent workout as we walked.

Tomorrow, we head for Melide, a shorter walk of around 19km, with less ascent and more descent. The weather forecast is for more great walking weather and I seem to be more at peace with dealing with the masses out there. Tune in shortly to see whether my termperament holds….


Camino Day 35 – Sarria to Portomarin: Surrounded By The Madding Crowd

Saturday 23 September 2023 – Today was a trying day. I shall be moaning a lot about it in this post. If you’d prefer to avoid my self-pitying querulousness, you can simply see the summary video on Relive.

The weather forecast for today was fine – sunny and not too hot. The only worry on my mind was how crowded would the trail be. To remind you, Sarria is significant because it’s just over the 100km away from Santiago needed to qualify for a Certificate or Compostela when arriving there. Therefore, a lot of people start their Camino in Sarria.

On turning the first corner, the situation became clear

and my heart sank. For five weeks, Jane and I have been walking effectively in solitude and we were suddenly confronted with what seemed like masses of people. Of course, it wasn’t a crowd, but the sharp contrast with not only the walking we’ve done in Spain, but actually all the walking we have done, in England and elsewhere, made me feel very uncomfortable. Yes, of course these people have a perfect right to be there; of course I’m being unreasonable. But I hated it. All day. I even found myself at a couple of points thinking, “Well, I’ve proved I can do the hills; I’ve proved I can do the miles, why should I put up with this? Why not just grab a taxi and spend a few extra, relaxing days in Santiago?”

Annoyingly, it even affected my photography. Over the last weeks, I have taken a measure of care over the photos I’ve taken, spending time composing the image and capturing it as best I can on a (top notch) mobile phone. This takes time, perhaps as much as 30 seconds. In that time, the people that I’ve overtaken would have passed me, and so I would have to suffer the Very British Problem of feeling embarrassed when I overtake again. And again. And again, My defensive response was either not to bother taking photos at all, or just to grab a shot as I walked along and hope that it was OK. This doesn’t always work, as this one I tried to take of a chap opportunistically selling pilgrim sticks shows;

it’s blurred and badly framed. In others, there are people in the frame when I don’t want them there, or I’m not happy with the composition. The day was as trying photographically as it was emotionally.

There was scarcely an instant in the day when Jane and I had any feeling of being by ourselves.

In many respects, the day was a good one: the weather was perfect for walking; the going underfoot was very good; and the scenery was, at times, lovely.

We were passing through farmland, and so there were (scents to smell and) animals to see.

There were charming vignettes, such as this family weeding their land,

a new take on a pilgrim mural,

and attractive building decoration.

There were stops for coffee and beer.

There was uphill and down dale (much more, to be frank, than I expected, but it was nice to get the exercise). There were attractive corners of the many villages we passed through.

There were unusual objects, some familiar, such as this dovecote

and some less so: does anyone know what these are for?

We think they’re stores of some description, but if you know, please post a comment to educate us.

There was a very significant waymark,

although, as I’ve said earlier, its precision in specifying exactly 100km to the nearest metre as the remaining distance is bound to be inaccurate. I don’t care, and neither did all of the other people taking their photos and (sigh) selfies around it.

There were bridges, some very modest

some with a little more presence, albeit somewhat rough

and some really grand ones

which brings me to our destination, Portmeirion Portomarin.

Believe it or not, there was a steep descent to get down to that high bridge. Amazingly, there was a decision point on the trail beforehand

where everybody turned right, because turning left (on a more recently-crafted route) carried with it a warning that it was steep. Given how steep the “not-steep” route actually was, I can only imagine that the other route required pitons and ropes. Quite why it was put in place, I don’t know. Whatever, the route we took led you past a couple of great viewpoints to see the very impressive bridge across a river that has been widened by a dam somewhere downstream (which, incidentally, required the entire town of Portomarin to be relocated in the 1960s). Amazingly, people were walking past this viewpoint without even registering it, far less to take a photo or (shudder) a selfie. Why do all this walking and ignore what’s around you?


The bridge offers some great photo opportunities as you cross it

and when you get to the other side you are greeted by a significant flight of steps;

only 46 steps, actually, so not as bad as getting into Sarria, where there is a flight of 62 to keep your heart rate up.

Although there’s not a huge amount to see in Portomarin, it’s a handsome place

with a very large and historically significant church at its centre.

Portomarín was a town of great importance during the Middle Ages – appearing in the Codex Calixtinus – because Its bridge was a strategic crossing point, as it was the only place where it was possible to cross the fast-flowing Miño River without a boat. The church of San Nicolao, was actualy moved, stone by stone, from its original location when the river was widened. It is an unusual combination of a church and a fortress. This twofold purpose originated with the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, who built it between the late 12th century and the early 13th century to provide protection for pilgrims and traders.

Inside it’s plain, but otherwise fairly churchy.

At each end there is a modern stained glass window. The one you can see in the photo above is fairly unique in that it has actually 13 segments (the norm is 12; sometimes you see 10 or 16). We have failed to find out why this is the case.

Inside the church are a couple of photos of Dom Sampedro

(you remember – the chap who is largely responsible for the reinvigoration of the Camino) and outside there are a couple of statues, including the obligatory one of St. James.

Our hotel is literally in the shadow of the church (well, after midday it is) and it has a kitchen with a fridge, a kettle and mugs, so we can make ourselves lashings of Twining’s finest Earl Grey tea.

And this brings my story of the day to an end. I would say I’m sorry for the moaning, but I’m not. I only hope that I can come to terms with the extra numbers of people on the trail. One friend suggests leaving late and walking slowly so that the hordes are largely dispersed; perhaps we’ll try that. In any case you’ll be agog to know the latest stats, won’t you? We covered exactly 23km today, which means that I don’t need recourse to a calculator to tell you that our total is now 713.4km. I do need one to tell you that this is just over 443 miles.

Tomorrow, our destination is Lestedo,, which is about 20km away. Once again, rain doesn’t figure anywhere in the Accuweather forecast; let’s hope that they get tomorrow as right as they got today, and I’ll bring you news of the day’s events, hopefully in a more positive tone, in due course. For now, hasta luego!